Josh Ginnelly's Hearts contract admission, the Celtic star he studies and 'batter' relationship with Shankland
The Hearts forward has been required to adapt his game. When he arrived at the club in 2020, on loan from Preston North End, he did so as a direct winger, one who was desperate to get one on one with a full-back and use his speed to take him away down the wing. Now his pace is utilised through the middle as the team's central striker. He has responded excellently to the demands of Robbie Neilson, his double in the 3-0 win over the Perth Saints taking him onto eight goals with double figures for the first time in his career on the horizon.
The nature of his second goal, a real poacher's finish, right place, right time to tap into the net, was the result of work away from the pitch. Of watching, studying, learning, helped by the likes of coaches Gordon Forrest and Lee McCulloch.
“There were a couple of times this season where I probably didn’t deal with a situation too well – where I’ve sort of stayed on the penalty spot," he said. “But then I watch other strikers – and the best in the league is probably Kyogo – and he is always in that right position. Look at his goals in last week’s [Viaplay Cup] final – he is always in that area. He’s a great player so I study some of the stuff that he does. And it worked for me on Saturday.
"As a player, it’s what you do. It’s not by mistake that these other strikers get into these good positions – it’s something they actually look for. Obviously, when you have to change your position, you still watch the players at the top. Everyone will do it.
“Jig and Gordy do a lot with us – show us clips of other players. Last week we had a meeting about the strikers’ movements, and other little things. So you have to take it all on board and try to put it into your game as quickly as you can.”
Ginnelly, out of contract at the end of the season, revealed he is “open to staying here” but hasn't "heard anything”. The 25-year-old’s focus is on continuing to build on his relationship with Lawrence Shankland and improving as a striker.
“It’s not as easy as it looks," he said. “I’ve had to adapt my game. I’ve had to look at how Shanks plays and other strikers in our team. I’ve had to mould my game around that, and try to use my pace to try to stretch teams. I just try to be that nuisance, where teams don’t really know where I am until it’s too late. Hopefully the goals keep coming.
He added: “We probably formed our relationship first off the pitch. We absolutely batter each other every day. We are constantly getting on to each other about what we’ve done wrong – if I’ve missed an open goal he will remind me. He’s a brilliant player and we’re lucky to have him. Long may it continue.”
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